By Frank Vondracek
There is plenty of evidence around that the Lord’s church in the United States is at a low point in growth. Just talk to members from other congregations, and you will most likely hear, “The work here is going slowly, at best.” “ How’s the work going where you are?”, they might ask of you. What would your answer be?
The population of the kingdom is growing older without many younger people obeying the gospel to bring down the average age of its membership. Someone has credited this situation to the increase of indifference and lack of Bible knowledge among the current citizenry of the kingdom of God. Of course, symptoms of this will be a lessening of conviction and work on the part of individual members of the Lord’s church. But, be that as it may, we’re here to suggest some characteristics of a successful congregation of God’s people.
1) ENCOURAGEMENT. There is no way for any group to succeed in its purpose without encouragement within. Usually a congregation will have to supply its own encouragement. This can best be done by TEACHING itself God’s word through regular study together. When some members cannot be counted on to participate regularly and contribute to the study, then it is obvious that the level of encouragement will be diminished, and even DIScouragement could replace anything positive. PRAISE should be handed out whenever the work of God is evidenced to be alive within the members - “Render to all their dues” (Romans 13:7). And also the HELPING HEART AND HAND should always be available to each member whenever these are needed. TEACHING, PRAISE and HELP are all ways for any congregation to encourage itself to succeed. Remember, too, that the purpose for a congregation to be actively edifying itself through study of God’s word is “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph 4:12).
2) EQUALITY. Each member of the congregation should know that they are loved and appreciated by their brethren, as well as by God. Jesus died for all the world (John 3:16). Each Christian, from the youngest to the oldest, must be able to realize the importance of their place and part in the body of Christ, and how much the members of the local church need them to be doing all they can do. Team spirit and effort will help any congregation to succeed. Training of younger Christians must take place while they are “babes in Christ” (Matt 28:20). Later may be just too late!
3) PROPER ARRANGEMENTS. In order to fully succeed in the Lord’s work and cause, a congregation must work diligently towards being scripturally fully organized with the members, bishops and deacons (Phil 1:1). Some sort of a plan for the required and necessary work must be made and formulated to fit the make-up of the congregation (Eph 4:12). And then the plan must be implemented with a full participation of ALL members (Neh 2:18). Proper arrangements will aid any congregation.
4) PROPER EMPHASIS. Whenever a congregation makes up its mind to be successful for the Lord’s honor and glory, proper priorities must be set and maintained. As far as the Lord’s church is concerned, it is a spiritual body existing for the purpose of spiritual matters. While there are some physical and social considerations involved, the first priority of any successful congregation is “the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt 6:33). Whatever physical and social benefits and considerations may be found in the church, they are always of lesser importance to purely spiritual affairs. Once any congregation places proper emphasis on spiritual things first, it will be well on its way to be a successful congregation. But all need to remember that the Lord knows if one’s priority list is proper to His will. Man can only plan priorities with a knowledge of His will, if he wants to please the Lord.
Brethren, every congregation ought to have as its goal success in the work of the Lord which He assigns to His people. Let us remember that we are coworkers with Him (1 Cor 3:5-9). Let’s be sure that we are always available and eager to work in the Lord’s vineyard, and to work TOGETHER in such a way as to be A SUCCESSFUL CONGREGATION.
Frank Vondracek is a former engineer who started preaching full time in mid-1983. He has preached with churches in Ohio, Illinois, Iowa and Kentucky. He served as one of the elders with the Kimberly Road church in Davenport, Iowa. He presently preaches for the church in Tompkinsville, KY. He also has been involved in preaching the gospel in Kenya, East Africa since 1996. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.